Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Re-elected, Rival Set To Establish Parallel Government.

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The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has declared Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani winner of of the 2019 Presidential elections after a long delay.

IEC chief Hawa Alam Nuristani announced the result during a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday 18 February. She said that 137,000 votes classed as suspicious and 12,012 votes cast outside polling hours had been found to be valid during a special audit.

"May God help him in serving the people of Afghanistan... I also pray that peace comes to our country." - Hawa Alam Nuristani

Mr Ghani declaration was delayed due to allegations of vote-rigging after grabbing 50.64% of the vote. The September 28 election was also said to have some irregularities and main rival Abdullah Abdullah, who came second with 39.52% has contested the result, declared victory, and vowed to form his own parallel government.

"Our team, based on clean and biometric votes, is the victor and we declare our victory. The fraudsters are the shame of history and we announce our inclusive government," - Abdullah Abdullah

Turnout was also the lowest since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, with just 1.82m votes counted. Nearly one million votes were discarded due to irregularities. Afghanistan's total population stands at about 37 million, with 9.6 million registered voters.

The low turnout was in part attributed to widespread safety concerns as the Taliban had threatened to attack polling stations and targeted election rallies before polling day.

This announcement is coming as the US seeks to sign a deal with the Taliban who refuse to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, saying it is illegitimate. They say they will only talk to Afghan authorities after a deal with the US is agreed.

Mr Ghani, 70, has insisted on taking part in any future negotiations with the Taliban. He has vowed to fight them "for generations" if such talks fail.

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